“If you see something, say something,” authorities have advised Americans since 9/11. Yet, when political commentator and Fox News contributor Rochelle Ritchie reported something suspicious and threatening to social media, her report went unheeded.
Twitter failed to take action after Ritchie identified chilling written threats from Cesar Sayoc Jr., the recently arrested Florida man who sent explosive devices through the mail to prominent Democrats around the country. “Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave home,” Sayoc threatened Ritchie shortly after she appeared on Fox News.
Ritchie responded to the Oct. 11 harassment by blocking Sayoc, who was using an account registered to Cesar Altieri under the username “hardrock2016.” “Threatening my life… bad idea,” the Fox News panelist answered before reporting the life-threatening message to Twitter.
Unfortunately, Ritchie’s report of abuse was answered with indifference. “We have reviewed your report carefully and found that there was no violation of the Twitter rules against abusive behavior,” the social media company wrote in a templated response.
Later, after Mr. Sayoc was arrested in connection to the mail bombs, Ritchie’s Twitter followers flocked to her account to inform her that her one-time harasser was the bombing suspect. Ritchie responded to this turn of events by sharing screenshots of Sayoc’s threats along with Twitter’s message promising to do nothing about it.
Hey @Twitter remember when I reported the guy who was making threats towards me after my appearance on @FoxNews and you guys sent back a bs response about how you didn’t find it that serious. Well guess what it’s the guy who has been sending #bombs to high profile politicians!!!! pic.twitter.com/xBY8FMbqnq
— R O C H E L L E (@RochelleRitchie) October 26, 2018
Ritchie denied reports that Sayoc was angry about something she said during a recent Fox News appearance. Instead, she said that Ritchie’s Oct. 11 harassment, where he identified himself as a member of the “Unconquered Seminole Tribe” and promised to take Ritchie on a “nice silent Air boat ride” to the “Everglades Swamp,” was about an earlier tweet regarding pro-Trump rapper Kanye West.
“When he sent the tweet, I paid more attention to his because it involved a physical threat, whereas other comments usually involve name calling or racial slurs,” Ritchie said.
Too little, too late
Sayoc’s Twitter account also featured threats to other prominent Democrats whom he later sent pipe bombs to through the mail, including former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Vice President Joe Biden. In addition, Sayoc used threatening language in tweets to former New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout, and New York Times journalist and former Verge writer Sarah Jeong.
Ritchie, a Manhattan native, said that Twitter has a responsibility to protect its users from dangerous people like Sayoc. “We live in a society where we, especially New Yorkers, are encouraged, if you see something, say something,” Ritchie said.
“Commentators, we get this all the time, but we don’t have the same protections as Obama or Hillary Clinton or Trump,” she added.
Late Friday afternoon, Twitter finally responded appropriately to Ritchie’s abuse complaint, removing Sayoc’s account and apologizing. “Please disregard our last reply as it was sent in error,” Twitter representatives wrote. “We apologize for any inconvenience. We’ve investigated and suspended the account you reported as it was found to be participating in abusive behavior.”